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Israeli film fest features award winners, hidden gems

Tags: Arts
Eran Riklis’ latest movie, Playoff, is based on the life of legendary Israeli basketball coach Max Stoller.

MONTREAL — This year’s Montreal Israel Film Festival (MIFF) offers a mix of internationally recognized films and those the country’s filmmakers hope will soon be similarly recognized, says MIFF director and founder Eran Bester.

All of these recent feature films provide insight into the diversity and complexity of life in Israel, he added.

The eighth edition will be held from April 29 to May 7 at the AMC Forum Cinema downtown and the Guzzo Méga-Plexe Sphèretech in St. Laurent. All films are in Hebrew with English subtitles.

The lineup includes films that have received Academy Award nominations or been acclaimed at the Cannes, Berlin, Toronto or Sundance film festivals.

The others are, in Bester’s opinion, “lesser known but equally stunning gems” that have done well in Israel, both among the public and critics. There are three Canadian and one Montreal premiere.

At the opening night, Israeli Guy Nattiv and Montrealer Philippe Lavalette will be on hand to present their film The Flood at the AMC on April 29 at 8:30 p.m.

Director Nattiv, who has received more than 20 awards worldwide including best short at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, will discuss the making of The Flood, while Lavalette, the director of photography, who earned a Caméra d’Or nomination at Cannes, the award for best cinematography at Toronto’s HotDocs, as well as numerous Gemini awards and nominations, will offer his perspective on working in Israel.

The Flood (awarded best supporting actor at the 2010 Israeli Film Academy Awards and a special mention at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival) is an unusual coming-of-age tale. A boy struggles with bullies, an estranged autistic brother and an unstable family. It features original music by Quebec musician Patrick Watson.

Nattiv will also be in attendance at a second screening on April 30. The Flood will open in local theatres for a general run on May 4.

Most notable is Joseph Cedar’s Footnote, which won the award for best screenplay at Cannes this year and was nominated for best foreign-language film at the 2011 Academy Awards. This is the story of relentless academic competition, and a complicated father-son relationship marked by admiration and envy.

Another distinguished film is Restoration by Yossi Madmoni, a gripping tale about a family’s struggle to save their business and stay intact themselves. Among other accolades, it received 11 nominations at the Israeli Film Academy Awards, four wins at the Jerusalem Film Festival, claimed the world-cinema screenwriting award at the 2011 Sundance and was an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival this year.

Marco Carmel’s My Lovely Sister, one of the hidden gems, is a passionate story involving a superstitious woman, her rude husband, and the ghost of her sister, who died from the pain of banishment when she followed her heart and chose to live with her Arab lover.

The film, which paints a tender portrait of the North African community, has claimed 10 nominations, as well as the titles for best actress and best supporting actress, at this year’s Israeli Oscars.

Renowned Israeli director Eran Riklis returns with Playoff, an inspirational sports drama based on the life of legendary Israeli basketball coach Max Stoller, a World War II refugee.

The film follows his decision to turn the hopeless West German national team into Olympic contenders. Despite public outrage in Israel – his mother calls him a traitor – and great resistance from the players, he finally confronts his past, which he discovers was based on lies, and becomes a symbol of personal victory.

My Australia takes place in mid-1960s Poland, where the 10-year old protagonist and his brother join an antisemitic street gang. When the boys are arrested for beating up Jewish children, their mother decides to take the family to Israel.

The brothers struggle to accept their new surroundings, the shocking truths about their family history, and the chilling fact that their mother is a Holocaust survivor.

Winner of the audience award at the 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival, My Australia rings with a certain authenticity because writer-director Ami Drozd was a young immigrant to Israel from Poland.

Inspired by the shock filmmaker Doron Eran felt following the brutal murders at the Tel Aviv Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth Center in 2009, Melting Away is the first Israeli feature film to deal with the topic of parents and transgendered children.

Chen Yanni, who received a nomination for best actress at the 2011 Israeli Oscars, plays the lead role of a mysterious nurse who wins over a hospitalized man dying of cancer. The film explores their relationship and the question of whether he realizes this nurse is the son that he long ago drove away from home.

For tickets, phone 514-937-2332 or visit www.israelfilmfestival.ca. Admission is free for students with valid ID, subject to availability, five minutes before each screening.

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